Silicon Graphics and Microsoft Form Strategic Alliance To Define the Future of Graphics

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 17, 1997 — Silicon Graphics Inc. (NYSE: SGI) and Microsoft Corp. today announced a strategic alliance aimed at increasing graphics capabilities for a wide variety of consumer, business and professional customers. Drawing upon each company’s industry-leading expertise, this initiative will significantly advance graphics technology and create a common, extensible architecture that will bring advanced and powerful graphics to the entire computer market. The companies have agreed to jointly define, develop and deliver these new graphics technologies as part of a project code-named “Fahrenheit.”

The Fahrenheit project will create a suite of application programming interfaces (APIs) for the Microsoft® DirectX® multimedia architecture on the Windows® operating system and the Silicon Graphics® UNIX-based platform. An API is a common interface with which developers can leverage the full acceleration capabilities of a computer. Fahrenheit will incorporate Microsoft Direct3D® and DirectDraw® APIs with Silicon Graphics complementary technologies such as OpenGL® , OpenGL Scene Graph
and OpenGL Optimizer
. The Fahrenheit architecture will be the basis for innovative third-party graphics and visualization applications including Internet, games, business, digital content creation, CAD/CAM, medical and scientific applications.

“Silicon Graphics and Microsoft have been working together since 1991 to develop OpenGL for Windows NT® ,” said Dr. Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Associates and one of the industry’s leading 3-D graphics analysts. “The Fahrenheit project inaugurates the next phase of that long-standing relationship. Fahrenheit paves the way for a truly scalable computer graphics software framework that will satisfy ISVs all the way from low-level APIs to full-blown scene graphics with large model visualization and heavy-duty ‘visualization simplification’ functions. This is something the industry has wanted and needed for a long time.”

This alliance is part of an expanding relationship between Silicon Graphics and Microsoft that enhances Silicon Graphics’ development of high-value Windows-based visual systems. Through this agreement, Silicon Graphics will apply its core competencies to define the Fahrenheit framework upon which Silicon Graphics will continue to develop differentiated graphics systems.

During the development of the Fahrenheit project, Microsoft and Silicon Graphics have also agreed to work together in support of the development of Windows-based graphics applications for professionals through the OpenGL APIs and the development of Windows-based graphics applications for consumers through the Direct3D API.

“Today, Silicon Graphics and Microsoft are defining a clear path for developers that enables both of us to expand the market for graphics,” said Ed McCracken, chairman and chief executive officer of Silicon Graphics. “This also marks Silicon Graphics’ first step toward implementing its strategy to participate in the larger market for a graphically oriented Windows NT-based systems.” “We’re delighted to be working with Silicon Graphics to enhance and drive innovation on DirectX and Windows as a key platform for 3-D graphics and visualization,” said Paul Maritz, group vice president of the platforms and applications group at Microsoft. “The industry’s graphics leaders are collaborating on a standard that will expand the market for developers for Windows while benefiting the entire market.”

Fahrenheit: Common Architecture for Innovation

The Fahrenheit project will produce the following three components:

  • Fahrenheit low-level API will become the primary graphics API for both consumer and professional applications on Windows. The Fahrenheit low-level API will evolve from Direct3D, DirectDraw and OpenGL while providing full backward compatibility with applications and hardware device drivers written for Microsoft Direct3D and functional compatibility with Silicon Graphics’ OpenGL technologies.

  • Fahrenheit Scene Graph API will provide a higher level of programming abstraction for developers creating consumer and professional applications on both Windows and Silicon Graphics IRIX operating systems. This API will evolve from Silicon Graphics’ current Scene Graph API. The Fahrenheit Scene Graph API provides high-level data structures and algorithms that increase overall graphics performance and assist the development of sophisticated graphics-rich applications.

  • Fahrenheit Large Model Visualization Extensions will be based on the Silicon Graphics OpenGL Optimizer API and complementary DirectModel API from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft. They will operate in conjunction with the Scene Graph API. The large model visualization extensions add functionality that will allow the interactive manipulation of large 3-D models such as an entire automobile. The Large Model Visualization API adds functionality such as multiresolution simplification to the Scene Graph API so developers can easily write applications that will interact with extremely large visual databases. This technology will also be designed to enhance legacy applications with new large model visualization capabilities.

The agreement to collaborate on the Fahrenheit APIs builds on a growing cooperation between Microsoft and Silicon Graphics. Most recently, the companies agreed to collaborate on a new 3-D Graphics Device Driver Kit (DDK) to support OpenGL on the Windows 9X and Windows NT platforms.

The agreement also builds on the significant graphics expertise of each company. Silicon Graphics will draw on its extensive knowledge and core competency in graphics, visualization and imaging, and the overwhelming market acceptance for OpenGL. Microsoft will draw on the acknowledged graphics expertise of its DirectX development team and on the world-renowned Microsoft Research Group, as well as on the leadership of the DirectX APIs and the rich operating system services afforded by the Windows platform.

The Fahrenheit APIs will be developed in conjunction with software and hardware development partners. Microsoft and Silicon Graphics are committed to an open design preview process during which input on the API designs will be solicited from all interested parties. In particular, Microsoft and Silicon Graphics will work together with other industry leaders – including Intel Corp. – to evolve the Fahrenheit APIs. Specifically, Intel will work with Microsoft and Silicon Graphics on the Fahrenheit low-level API to ensure maximum support of the Intel Pentium II processor.


Microsoft and Silicon Graphics engineers will begin development on Fahrenheit APIs and extensions immediately. They will deliver new APIs, DDKs and Software Development Kits (SDKs) in phases over the next two and a half years. Phase One will be the delivery of the Fahrenheit Scene Graph and Large Model Visualization in the first half of calendar year 1999 for Microsoft Windows and Silicon Graphics IRIX. Phase Two will be the delivery of the Fahrenheit low-level API in the first half of calendar year 2000 on Microsoft Windows only. For the Windows platform, Microsoft will be the direct source for licensing, certifying and distributing the SDKs and DDKs. For the Silicon Graphics IRIX platform, Silicon Graphics will be the direct source for licensing, certifying and distributing the SDKs and DDKs.

For more information on the Fahrenheit APIs, developers should visit ( or .

Company Information

Silicon Graphics Inc. is a leading supplier of high-performance interactive computing systems. The company offers the broadest range of products in the industry, from low-end desktop workstations to servers and high-end Cray® supercomputers. Silicon Graphics also markets MIPS microprocessor designs, Alias|Wavefront
entertainment and design software, and other software products. The company’s key markets include manufacturing, government, science and industries, communications and entertainment sectors. Silicon Graphics and its subsidiaries have offices throughout the world and headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, DirectX, Windows, Direct3D, DirectDraw and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Silicon Graphics, the Silicon Graphics logo and OpenGL are registered trademarks and IRIX, OpenGL Optimizer and OpenGL Scene Graph are trademarks of Silicon Graphics Inc. MIPS is a registered trademark of MIPS Technologies Inc.

Cray is a registered trademark of Cray Research Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Silicon Graphics Inc.

Alias|Wavefront is a trademark of Alias|Wavefront, a division of Silicon Graphics Limited

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at /presspass/ on Microsoft’s corporate information pages. Silicon Graphics press materials are available on the World Wide Web at ( .

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